More research is emerging on meditation’s benefits for people with sleep disorders. In a randomized controlled study that included 54 adults with chronic insomnia, subjects who participated in 8 weeks of mindfulness-based therapy specifically for people with this condition showed significant improvements in their insomnia both 3 months and 6 months after the course had finished.

Investigators divided participants into three groups. All participated in 8-week interventions and in follow-ups. The control group maintained sleep diaries. A second group completed a traditional 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. They participated in one 6-hour meditation retreat plus weekly meetings that included group meditation, discussion, and health education about stress and meditation.

The third group enrolled in an adapted course of mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia (MBTI) in which the general health
education portion of the MBSR program was replaced by specific education on behavioral strategies for insomnia. People in the MBSR and MBTI groups were asked to meditate at least 30-45 minutes per day, 6 days a week.

Researchers collected data from all subjects based on self-reported sleep diaries, wrist monitors and overnight lab sleep tests. Data analysis showed that members from both the MBSR and MBTI groups had significantly reduced total wake time and pre-sleep arousal. MBTI participants, however, showed significantly greater reduction in the severity of their insomnia compared with both the MBSR subjects and the control group.

Study authors concluded that mindfulness meditation may be a viable treatment for people with chronic insomnia and could be an alternative therapy. More research was recommended.

The study is available in SLEEP (2014; 37 [9], 1553-63)